November 30, 2012

Thanksgiving November!


So a friend on Facebook posted a link to her own blog (Plant Based Junkies) challenging everyone to post what they were thankful for each day this month. I decided to take up the challenge and have been updating my Facebook status each day so far. Today, I decided to consolidate those posts into a single blog post ...  

November 1, 2012 - I am thankful for ... our furnace this morning! Brrrr! ... and this evening, I am thankful for .... glimpses of blue skies after 8 days of rainy nights and rainy days!

November 2, 2012 - I am thankful for .... a brilliant sunrise, and a sun shiny day to follow! .. and .... this evening after seeing another LONG line of utility trucks heading NE on I-71 .... I am thankful for all the rescue workers and volunteers that have been helping with the relief efforts in the NE. 

November 3, 2012 - I am thankful for ... an intelligent, smart, independent older step-son! Watch out world, Bryce Anthony Coder will be making his mark.

November 4, 2012 - I am thankful for ... (a) having caught li'l Nik Coder's croup early on Saturday night so that he is almost all better this morning and (b) electricity - my dear brother and his family (in NJ) were without it since Superstorm Sandy.

November 5, 2012 - I am thankful for a great babysitter! Thank you G'ma Jeanne for your loving care!

November 6, 2012 - I am thankful for ... a democratic nation. Go out and vote people and may the best guy win!!! (This was the day I voted in my first Presidential election since becoming a United States citizen). 

November 7, 2012 - I am thankful that democracy prevailed and my vote actually counted for something! Congratulations Mr. President!!! Here's to 4 more years!! (This is the day we re-elected President Obama for a second term, I voted in Ohio, the biggest swing state of all).

November 8, 2012 - I am thankful for my health. My li'l boy is only 3 years old and I hope to be around and healthy on his wedding day and to play with his kids one day! :)

November 9, 2012 - I am thankful for a warm bed every night!!! Its the end of the week ... I'm whupped!

November 10, 2012 - I am thankful that my dear uncle back in India is on his path to recovery after a health scare these last couple of days!

November 11, 2012 - I am thankful for my husband's love for football ♥ which allows me a chance for a much needed Sunday afternoon nap ... Zzzz!

November 12, 2012 - I am thankful for all my friends and extended family members across the world that are celebrating a very happy Diwali this year! Happy Diwali everyone!

November 13, 2012 - I am thankful for my youngest aunt Preeti Sawhney Ghosh for being the person who introduced me to reading and new and exciting foods (eating out of course, unless she was baking) when I was a kid an now she's the only one in my entire extended family who'll try my recipes :) love you Bhua!

November 14, 2012 - I am thankful for THE BEST MOM IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD!!!! She taught me right from wrong and continues to do so now. She isn't shy about admonishing me when she feels the need to do so and has always been my best cheer-leader. I ♥ U, Ma. Happy Birthday!!!

November 15, 2012 - I am thankful for my brothers - Vivek, Vikas, Vikram, Siddharth, Alok, Sangeet, Amit, Prakash, Rahul, Rohit, Vivek O, Vinamra and Vyom. Happy Bhai Dooj! May you all be blessed with health and prosperity and long lives! Love you all :)

November 16, 2012 - I am thankful for all my sisters - Srishti, Gauri, Sheetal, Ruchika, Arti, Laxmi, Shraddha, Charu and Stutee. You know me in & out, good & bad, high & low, and still love me unconditionally, despite it all. And for that, I love you all back BIG much!!! I ♥ all my lovely Sawhney sisters, by blood, and by law. You're the best!!! Muah! 

November 17, 2012 - I am thankful for a sweet, thoughtful, bright and intelligent younger step-son, Alex Coder. Thanks for helping clean the house this morning!

November 18, 2012 - I am thankful for a few hours all to myself :) while all the boys were out and about!! A rare treat!

November 19, 2012 - I am thankful for a 3-Day work week ... had to get that one in :)

November 20, 2012 - I am thankful for a caring, wonderful, sweet nephew!! Happy Birthday, Vyom Sawhney!!! Love you big much!!!

November 21, 2012 - I am thankful for being the daughter of Vijay Sawhney! An honorable, loving, decisive, and very protective man who is responsible for molding me into who I am today! The best dad anyone could ask for! I will always love you Daddy! Miss you everyday!

November 22, 2012 - Thanksgiving Day - I am thankful for our family and friends, here in Ohio, in the US, in India and across the rest of the world! You enrich my (our) lives!!!

November 23, 2012 - QOTD - "When you have a child there is a line from you to the child that exists forever and cannot be broken" - Mo Hayder. I am thankful for li'l Nik Coder. My li'l sweetheart, full of questions and stories and dreams and imaginary friends. Mommy loves you with all her heart and is so immensely thankful that you came along and brightened up her life!! ♥

November 24, 2012 - I am thankful for my husband, Tony Coder! He's so handsome, so cute :) .. funny, and caring and thoughtful and oh just perfect! And in the eyes of "my" lovely family he's a saint because he puts up with me (sigh! family!). I love you, honey!!! ♥

November 25, 2012 - I am thankful for Lindsay Shay Nixon and her Happy Herbivore cookbooks. Almost 11 months ago, I changed my dietary lifestyle to whole-foods, plant-based, no-added-oil foods. Almost 25 lbs later, I have never felt better, and have no desire to go back to the SAD (Standard American Diet)!!! Thank you, Happy Herbivore!! 

November 26, 2012 - I am thankful for what a beautiful person my dear niece has grown up to be, inside and out! Happy Sweet Sixteen Radhika Sawhney :)

November 27, 2012 - I am thankful for my dear dear older Shistaah!!!! Srishti Sawhney, you're the very best there is ... the best that anyone could ask for!!! I love you with all my heart!!

November 28, 2012 - I am thankful for my awesome nephew, Vinamra Sawhney. He is smart, intelligent, talented and I would love it if he shaved his Movember beard. Love you Noniya!

November 29, 2012 - I am thank for the lovely Joules. She's been with me for a long time and is just as faithful and unconditionally loving as always. She is the prettiest dawg in the whole wide world.

November 30, 2012 - The last day of Thanksgiving November - I am thankful for the fact that I have all the above to be thankful for! A lot of people get by with a lot less than that! Count your blessings people!

... and have a great holiday season, everyone!!!

November 27, 2012

An Interview with The Happy Herbivore!

It is unbelievable to me that I am nearing my first anniversary as a herbivore. When I first decided to go plant-based on December 31. 2011, it was a New Year Resolution. I half expected that like all of my previous resolutions, this one would fall by the wayside, just as those belonging to millions of people across the world. The reason I decided to go plant-based was because I wanted to lose weight and I wanted to be healthier. My endocrinologist, at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, had been recommending that I go back to my Indian dietary roots, at every visit, for a few years by then. He provided recipes, book recommendations, and himself as an example. Him and his wife, decided to go Vegan after reading The China Study - and he suggested I read it. I did and was inspired to begin my plant based journey because of it. 

Then in January of 2012, I accidentally came across The Happy Herbivore website while searching for a recipe for Butternut Squash. It was, for me, a life-changing moment. Lindsay made it seem so easy and so doable. I bought both her cookbooks that same month and joined her New Herbies Page on Facebook. I asked her a question on her page and was so pleasantly surprised that she responded within a few hours with her honest and very encouraging advice. And that was it ... I was a fan!! 

Lindsay Nixon - The Happy Herbivore!
This past year, Lindsay and her recipes have been a constant in my life. She has always been ready to provide advice and recipes. It has been a pleasure to get to cyber-know her :) This past week I had the opportunity to interview her just before she begins her official blog tour for her latest cookbook Happy Herbivore Abroad.

Rugrat Chow! - What prompted you to go plant-based and why do you think you were so successful at it? 

Happy Herbivore - I was a vegetarian for most of my life, but lapsed back to meat-eating in my late teens due to family pressure and peer pressure. A serious health scare in my early 20's brought me back to a vegetarian diet and about a year later I adopted a totally plant-based (vegan) diet. I was motivated mainly for health reasons, but I also care about the environment and am moved by the plight of farm animals. Eating a plant-based diet has always been easy for me -- and seeing the results -- how I look and feel, getting rid of all my medical "issues" is all the motivation I ever need to stay plant-based. I couldn't hurt myself, or an animal. 

Rugrat Chow! - Did you always love to cook and experiment in the kitchen? Do you have any culinary training, or are you all self-taught? 

Happy Herbivore - When I went off to college I didn't even know how to make scrambled eggs. I tried to cook once, but the food was so bad my roommate and I almost broke our teeth eating it! A few years later, when I married, my mom said I needed to learn how to make at least one really good dish in case my husband ever wanted to bring his boss for dinner. I bought a cookbook, picked out a recipe, Went to the store then spent about 5 hours in the kitchen. It was edible, but nothing special -- certainly not worth it for all the time it took. So I declared myself a "non-cook" and my husband cooked all of our meals. When I went vegetarian, he was agreeable. He cooked vegetarian meals at home, but ate meat out. Then when I went vegan (plant-based) he threw his hands in the air saying he had no idea what to cook for me. If I was going to eat, I was going to have to go to the kitchen and cook. Every small success gave me the courage to cook again. and again. Eventually I fell in love with cooking and started developing my own recipes and style. By then, my husband was plant-based too, but happily deferred all the cooking to me! 

Happy Herbivore Abroad
Official Release Date: Dec 4, 2012
Available NOW at amazon.com
Rugrat Chow! - I personally struggle with sweet things like Cookies and Scones. What did you struggle with the most when you first went plant-based? 


Happy Herbivore - I missed the convenience. Previously, if I was hungry I'd walk into the first deli, pizza stand, coffee shop, fast food place, etc. I passed and get something. That's no-longer the case. Though I'm happy about the slight inconvenience in some respects. I take more time and consideration about what I'm putting in my body. I look for the healthiest option, not the fastest one. Perhaps most importantly - I can pass a bakery without going in for "just one cookie" and leaving with a dozen. My relationship with food has changed for the better.  

Rugrat Chow! - Are you 100% strict with your plant-based lifestyle. If so, how do you manage that mentally and emotionally? 


Happy Herbivore - Yes. My sister used to be in weight watchers and she had this great quote "nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels" and I think I'd add nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels. You never realize how crappy you felt until you see what it feels like to be well. I could never give up that feeling. It would also weigh too heavily on my heart. Animal products come from cruel places. 

Rugrat Chow! - You have written quite a few posts about eating out and when attending a gathering as a guest, how is it that you avoid temptation? Do you ever think “oh it’s just one cookie ..”! 

Happy Herbivore - No. I don't see, say, a cookie, and think "it's just one cookie." I see the casein in it which causes cancer. I see the cholesterol in it that causes heart disease. I see the horrors of the industry. I remember that eat bite of animal product - no matter how small - is a vote for ill health. It's so easy to walk away. Plus they don't taste that good anyway. If I want a cookie, I'll go home and make a plant-based one. Then I can eat it and without the guilt or ill side effects.

Rugrat Chow! - For those of us who are new to this, what is your biggest piece of advice when going plant-based? 

Happy Herbivore - Just do it. Take it a meal at a time. Don't get caught up with over thinking. Worry about this meal, right now -- not what you're doing tomorrow, or next week or next Christmas. Never think in "Can't haves" -- it's not that you can't have it, it's that you're choosing not to. Also, focus on all the food you can have, not what you're choosing to give up. I eat a wider variety of food now on a plant-based diet than I ever did on an omnivorous one! 

Rugrat Chow! - Since you had a successful career as a lawyer before, what was the turning point in your life? When did you decide to go all in? 


Happy Herbivore - I started blogging in 2007, when I was still in law school. It was a creative outlet for me. Even after I'd graduated and taken the bar exam, blogging continued to be my hobby. As time wore on I realized I liked blogging and cooking way more than I liked being a lawyer, but my hands were tied... until I had the opportunity to write my first cookbook. 

I knew there was no way I could work as a lawyer AND write a cookbook, so it was one or the other. I decided to take a big chance, quit being a lawyer and work on my cookbook while also doing various freelance assignments to pay the bills. My husband and I also had to do some major downsizing to make it happen -- selling our cars, moving from a large apartment to a teeny, tiny studio, etc. (I'm so glad he was up for it!) 

Rugrat Chow! - Where do you find your inspiration? With regards to recipes, when eating out, do you eye other people’s plates (omnivores) and consider a possible conversion (LOL!)? 


Happy Herbivore - With my first book, The Happy Herbivore Cookbook, I set out to recreate dishes ("comfort foods") that I used to eat -- but in a new healthy and plant-based way. With my second book, Everyday Happy Herbivore, I went back to basics. I looked at whatever ingredients I had on hand, then created a meal (or meals) out of it. With my new book, Happy Herbivore Abroad, I recreated meals I ate or saw on my travels... I made international cuisine healthy and plant-based -- and with everyday ingredients. 

I generally mind my own business and just lead by example, but if someone asked me a question or struck a conversation, I'd talk to them about it. I've had a lot of success "converting" people around me, just by being an example. 

Rugrat Chow! - How did it feel when your parents went plant-based? Do you consider that one of your biggest achievements? 


Happy Herbivore - I was relieved. In the end, the decision was theirs. You can't make people do something -- what's that saying? You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink? Goodness did I try with them. For years. They had to come to it on their own. They're doing amazing. My mom is off her cholesterol meds now. Life is good. They were, perhaps, the most skeptical, and are now the biggest believers. Their lives have totally changed. 

Rugrat Chow! - Lindsay was also so kind and provided a recipe (from her new book) to share. 



Moroccan Vegetables 

Serves 2 (Quick· Fat-free · Gluten-free· Soy-free · Budget · One-Pot Meal)

Tagine (also spelled tajine) is one of Morocco’s most popular vegetarian dishes, though if you travel to Morocco, don’t always assume vegetable tagine is vegetarian; it may be cooked in a lamb-based broth. Nevertheless, tagine is aromatic and delicious, and 20-some different ingredients could show up in any given recipe! (I have to applaud recipes where anything goes!)

Moroccan Vegetables - from Happy Herbivore Abroad
In my interpretation of tagine, I kept it simple with basic vegetables and core Moroccan spices. Serve tagine over quinoa or whole wheat couscous. For a complete meal, add chickpeas. 

Ingredients:
  1. 1 cup vegetable broth 
  2. 1 tbsp tomato paste \
  3. Dash of ground cinnamon 
  4. Dash of ground ginger 
  5. ½ tsp ground cumin 
  6. ½ tsp ground coriander 
  7. ¼ tsp paprika 
  8. ½ red onion, diced 
  9. 1 carrot, skinned and sliced 
  10. 1 zucchini, sliced 
  11. 1 yellow squash, sliced 
  12. ¼ cup raisins, chopped 
  13. Dash cayenne pepper 
Directions:
In a measuring cup, whisk broth with tomato paste, a few dashes of cinnamon and ginger, cumin, coriander, and paprika until well combined. Line a skillet with a thin layer of the broth mixture and sauté onions and carrots over high heat until onions are softer and translucent. Add remaining broth and vegetables, plus raisins, stirring to combine. Once boiling, cover and reduce to low and simmer until vegetables are fork-tender but not mush, about 5–7 minutes. Enough liquid should be left to coat everything, but if not, add a splash of water or vegetable broth. Add cayenne as desired plus salt to taste. 

Nutritional Information (Per Serving): Calories 127, Total Fat 0.7g, Carbohydrates 30.5g, Fiber 4.7g, Sugars 18.3g, Protein 4.0g.

About Lindsay (from Amazon.com): Lindsay Nixon is a rising star in the culinary world, praised for her ability to use everyday ingredients to create healthy, low fat recipes that taste just as delicious as they are nutritious. She is the author of two bestselling cookbooks, The Happy Herbivore Cookbook and Everyday Happy Herbivore. Her third book, Happy Herbivore Abroad, will be released in December 2012. Learn more about Nixon and try some of her recipes at happyherbivore.com.

Lindsay, Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity to interview you. And thank you for being such a wonderful resource and inspiration to us New Herbies! Thanks to you I'm ~25 lbs lighter, & happier with my body than I've been in a long time :)!!!

Chana Dal Tahiri

In India, one of the best meals made by my mom, grandma and aunts was IMHO almost always some sort of rice pilaf. A one pot meal, made typically with white rice and a combination of vegetables (cauliflower, peas, green beans, carrots, potatoes) or one of a variety of lentils. A Tahiri  is a rice and lentil pilaf and is usually consumed with Indian Mango pickles or with raita, a savory cool concoction made with plain yogurt and spices.  It is perfect on a hot summer day ... when you don't want to sweat it out in a hot kitchen and its almost as perfect on a chilly winter afternoon, when you want the warm feeling of comfort food. Rich in carbohydrates and high in protein, and 100% fat-free, it is indeed the perfect comfort food :) !! My only concession, I made it with white rice instead of brown because that is how I've always eaten it and one doesn't mess with comfort food!

Chana Dal Tahiri
Prep Time: 15 min

Ingredients:
  1. 1 cup White Rice
  2. 1/2 cup Chana Dal
  3. 3 cups Water
  4. 2 tsp Cumin seeds
  5. 1/4 tsp Asafoetida (optional)
  6. Salt and Pepper, to taste.
Directions:
Add all ingredients to a pressure cooker and cook under high for 10 minutes. If using a stove-top pressure cooker, allow it to reach full pressure and the reduce heat to medium-low and maintain pressure for 5-7 minutes. Allow to stand for 5 minutes after and then release steam. Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper and spicy Indian pickles, or hot sauce, or hot salsa. This dish is rather bland so is great for those days when the stomach needs a rest :) and on other days, the hot salsa adds a nice kick to it!! Enjoy!

Stove Top (sans Pressure Cooker) Directions:
Soak the chana dal overnight, or for at least 3-4 hours in advance. Increase water to 4 cups (3x for rice* and 1x for dal, with some allowance for evaporation). Add all ingredients to a deep pan or dutch oven and bring the water to a boil. Once the water is at a rolling boil, turn heat to medium, to allow the contents to simmer slowly, without boiling over. Cover 90% with the lid (keeping the lid a tad askew helps!). Allow to simmer for ~10-12 min or so until the rice is tender (pre-soaked dal should cook at the same rate as rice). Turn off heat, and place lid on tight. Add a weight (a few cans of beans) to the lid and let sit for 5-7 min. This is the 'dum' phase - literally it means adding strength. What it does is allow all the flavors to blend, allows the rice to absorb any remaining water and the whole dish becomes fluffy. Enjoy!

* Depending upon the kind of rice (even basmati varieties vary amongst themselves), this may take a few trials before you get the water-rice ratio right! Don't sweat it, even if there is a tad too much water, this dish tastes good! 

November 26, 2012

Baby Kale & Chickpeas

It is amazing to me that at this time last year, I sincerely believed, with all my heart, that God intended Kale to be bunny food. And now, I eat it several times a week, in various different dishes. Today, I decided to make a quick dinner with Kale and Red Lentils. I thought I was reaching for a can of diced tomatoes and it wasn't until the can was already moving on the electric can opener that I realized that in my absentmindedness - I had opened a can of chickpeas instead. Oh well, slight change of plans. Kale and Chickpeas are now on the  dinner menu! 

Baby Kale & Chickpeas
Prep Time: 20 min

Ingredients:
  1. 2 x 15 oz cans of Chickpeas (about 2.5 cups of boiled chickpeas) 
  2. 6 oz of fresh Baby Kale (1 small box of pre-washed greens from the store)
  3. 1 can of Hunt's Flame Roasted, Garlic Diced Tomatoes, or 2 large fresh tomatoes
  4. 2 tbsp Garlic
  5. 3 tbsp 100% Pure Pumpkin Puree (I had leftovers, optional)
  6. 1 tsp Roasted Cumin powder
  7. 2 tsp Garam Masala
  8. 2 cups of water, or vegetable broth
  9. Salt and Pepper, to taste
  10. Fresh Cilantro/Coriander leaves for garnish
Directions:
Mix all ingredients (except for garam masala and Cilantro) together in a pan and bring to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes until kale is wilted and ingredients combine together. Or, pressure cook under high pressure for 3-5 minutes. If starting with raw chickpeas, pressure cook for as long as you normally cook chickpeas. Open immediately, mix well. Add garam masala, and garnish with cilantro and serve over brown rice. 

My Assessment: The extra pumpkin puree that I had sitting around gave the dish a faint sweetness which was countered really well by the roasted cumin. I liked it.

Julie Southwell's Tip: Top it off with some Marie Sharp's Habañero sauce. Thank you Julie!! :)

Overnight Pumpkin Oats

Oatmeal has been described as some as the Breakfast of Champions. Unlike my DH who thinks Oats are for horses, I actually like Oatmeal but have often avoided eating it for breakfast mainly because of the convenience of my green smoothie. This weekend, I decided that it was high time I got back to oats, if only for the weekends :) !!! Here's an excellent blog post about Oats and Avenanthramides - polyphenolic antioxidants found in oats which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative, and anti-itching activity, and have been implicated to provide additional protection against coronary heart disease, colon cancer, and skin irritation. Here's another peer-reviewed article which discusses the effect of avenanthramide on inhibition of vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation.

Here's a recipe that's been floating around the New Herbies Page on Facebook. Don't know who to credit for it, but its great!! 

Overnight Oats
Prep Time: 2 min

Ingredients:
  1. 1/2 cup Rolled Oats
  2. 1 cup Non-Dairy Milk (unsweetened)
  3. 2-3 tbsp 100% Pure Pumpkin puree
  4. 1 banana
  5. 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix
  6. 1 tbsp Vegan Chocolate chips (optional)
  7. 1 tbsp Dried berries (blueberries, raisins, craisins) (optional)
Directions: 
Mix the first 3 ingredients and store overnight in the refrigerator. Next morning, mix well, add Pumpkin Pie spice mix and sliced banana. Add the chocolate chips and berries (optional). Enjoy!! 




Steamed Broccoli & Rice

Some days are meant for a light, quick-fix dinner. This one literally took me 10 minutes to make, from scratch. I wasn't in the mood to cook, so this was a perfect solution. 100% plant-based; 100% fat-free; 100% delish :) !! I like this dish because it gives me the flavors of Chinese food, right here at home. If you're not a big fan of oyster sauce, substitute with your favorite (ready-to-eat) sauce. 

Steamed Broccoli & Rice
Prep Time: 10 min

Ingredients:
  1. A head of fresh Broccoli
  2. 1 bag of  Kroger Boil-in-Bag Parboiled Brown Rice 
  3. 2 tbsp Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
  4. 1 tbsp Vegetarian Oyster Sauce
  5. Pepper, to taste.
Directions:
Bring a pot of water to boil and add the bag of brown rice. Allow to simmer for 7-8 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, rinse Broccoli and cut into bite-sized florets. Steam for 5 minutes using an electric or stove-top steamer bucket. Allow to stand for a couple of minutes. Drain rice and transfer into 2 bowls. Drizzle 1 tbsp Soy sauce over each bowl of rice, toss once; add steaming broccoli on top, and then drizzle each bowl with 1/2 tbsp of vegetarian oyster sauce. Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper. Enjoy!! 

November 25, 2012

Pumpkin Hummus

So in the past several weeks, I've seen quite a few references on Facebook and other social media about Pumpkin Hummus. Being a hummus fiend that I am, I knew I had to try it. I decided to take it along as one -of my contributions to my mother-in-law's Thanksgiving Dinner. According to her, all she knows how to cook is Southern, Fattening and Unhealthy. Honestly, she must use about 2 lbs of butter on that day alone. But, she's a doll. Ever since she found out about my eating habits, she's been really really attentive and always makes sure she has something made for me. Either a baked potato, or a sweet potato and she's always added a veggie tray and a salad to help provide me with a better choice for dinner. The past few times, I've carried a bowl of hummus with me to dip my veggies in. Since it was Thanksgiving, I decided to add a fall twist and try out one of the recipes for Pumpkin Hummus available online. The one that intrigued me the most was from Dreena Burton's Plant Powered Kitchen. I followed the recipe to a tee and then simply added some salt and lemon juice, to taste.

Dreena Burton's Pumpkin Hummus
Recipe (as published by Dreena Burton)

Prep Time: 10 min

Ingredients:

  1. 1 can Chick peas, drained and rinsed
  2. 1 can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  3. 1 cup pure pumpkin puree
  4. 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (Dreena's comment - try not to substitute lemon juice, the lime flavor really works here). I only had bottled Lime juice so I used that. 
  5. 1 medium-large clove garlic (Dreena's comment - adjust to taste, use smaller clove for kid-friendly). I used a teaspoon of minced garlic.
  6. 1 tsp sea salt
  7. 1 – 2 tbsp Tahini (to taste)
  8. 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  9. 1/4 tsp (rounded) ground allspice
  10. 1/4 – 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  11. 1/2 tsp pure maple syrup
  12. 1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (see note for toasting; reserve about 2-3 tbsp for garnish)
Directions:
Pulse all ingredients in a food processor (except pumpkin seeds), and starting with 1 tbsp tahini, until smooth.  After taste testing, I added an additional tbsp of tahini, maybe another 1/8 cup of Lime juice and 2 tbsp Maple syrup. Garnish with pumpkin seeds (Dreena's recipe called for pulsing the pumpkin seeds into the hummus but I don't like large chunks in my hummus so I only used the toasted seeds as a garnish. I served with whole-grain Wasa crackers and fresh veggies (red and green peppers, celery, cucumbers and carrots). 


My Assessment: I liked it. I liked the smokiness of the paprika but I think that the cumin overpowers a lot of the flavors. While I am a big fan of cumin and use it a lot I think it is a strong spice and should not be used for delicately flavored dishes like this one. The pumpkin flavor was somewhat hidden by the cumin. Overall, a pretty good hit with the Omni family!!

November 16, 2012

Chana Dal w Fennel

Growing up in India, I was exposed to a variety of lentils and each day of the week, my mom and aunts cooked up a new kind of lentil or bean. If you'd like a quick tutorial on lentils, look here. It was always interesting to see how many different recipes they could cook up using the same beans. One of my favorites was Chana Dal. 

Photo Courtest: PhamFatale.com
This lentil can be cooked up with Rice into a pilaf (a holiday delicacy that is cooked up on at least 2 holidays during the year), it can be cooked as a simple dal, it can be added to meat dishes to make stews, and it is often also roasted and spiced as a quick low-fat high protein snack. One of my favorite ways my mom fixed it was in a vegetable stew. Mom would add summer squash or spinach to it, and flavor it with fennel seeds. This is what I've attempted to recreate as a plant-based, no-added-fat version today.  Note that Chana dal is NOT the same as yellow split peas, even though they may look alike to the inexperienced eye. Best place to buy Chana dal is an Indian grocery store, either online, or a regular store.

Chana Dal w Spinach
Prep Time: 30 min (pressure cooker)

Ingredients: 
  1. 1 large red onion, diced
  2. 1.5 cup Chana Dal, preferably pre-soaked overnight.
  3. 2 cups fresh Baby Spinach
  4. 2-3 tbsp Tomato Paste 
  5. 1-2 tbsp Fennel Seeds
  6. 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
  7. 1 tsp Red Chili powder, to taste
  8. Salt and Pepper, to taste
  9. 3 cups of Water.
Directions: 
Combine all ingredients in a pressure cooker and cook under high pressure for 10 min (or 15 min if, like me, you forgot to soak the beans overnight). Release steam immediately. Beans should be soft to touch and should not hold up to any pressure, although unlike other lentils, Chana dal does retain its shape really well. If using the stove top method, you'll need to simmer on medium heat until lentils are soft.  Garnish with salt and pepper, and freshly chopped cilantro or mint leaves. Serve hot, over Jeera Rice.*

* Jeera Rice: In a separate pot, boil rice and 1 tsp cumin seeds in ample water. Drain. Voila! 

My Assessment: The fennel seeds add a faintly aromatic, somewhat sweet flavor to this dish. Although it looks like almost any other dal preparation, the flavors are unlike any you'll have had before. This dish does not taste like curry at all :) Tony loved it and wants it made again!! That's a success in my opinion!! 

Herb & Spice Fact of the Day

Fennel has previously featured on this blog as New Veggie #7. This time it appears not as a green bulb, but as the seed. 

Fennel is a highly aromatic and flavorful herb. The seeds have a sweet, anise-like flavor and are often used as a spice. More often, fennel seeds are consumed raw as an after-mint because of their digestive and medicinal qualities. 

See my post and also this website for more information on fennel.

November 13, 2012

Tofu Kalakand

It is Diwali today. The festival of lights. A day celebrating the victory of good over evil. A day of celebration and prayer. We celebrated at home with a small simple celebration. 


As all holidays across the world, Diwali is also about the food. Home-made desserts and savory snacks (Pakwan) are shared with families and friends. My favorite foods, of course, are are the sweet desserts. Unfortunately almost all of them are made with lots of butter and milk and cheese. I also wanted to prepare something at home today to offer to the gods during my prayer (Prasad). Today, I decided to adapt one of my favorite desserts - Kalakand - into a no-added-fat, plant-based version. Here's the basic recipe I found online, which still uses milk. 

Prep Time: 45 min

Ingredients:

  1. 1 x 14oz pack of Extra-firm Tofu
  2. 2 tsp Cardamom powder
  3. 1-2 flakes of saffron
  4. 6-8 tbsp Powdered Sugar
  5. 1 cup Almond Milk
  6. 2-4 tbsp Slivered or Sliced Almonds

Directions:
In a small clean saucepan, bring almond milk to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and boil down to about a 1/3 of a cup. Meanwhile, press the block of tofu between kitchen towels for 15-20 minutes to drain all liquids. It helps to weigh down the top with a couple cans of beans to hasten the process. Once the tofu is drained, transfer the dry block to a mixing bowl and crumble with your hands. 


Add sugar and almonds to the tofu and again, using your hands, mix until well combined. When the almond milk is boiled down to a thick liquid, add cardamom powder and safron to it, mix well and pour that liquid onto the tofu. Mix using a wooden spatula (the milk will be hot so don't use your hands). 


Once well mixed, taste test for sugar and add more than you would normally consider sweet (things taste less sweet once cooled). Mix any additional sugar well. Transfer everything to a rimmed plate and press down evenly. 


Place in a fridge for 30 min to allow it to set. Once set, cut into squares or diamonds, garnish with some more cardamom powder and enjoy!! 


My Assessment: I think this recipe captured the taste really well. However, I didn't have any powdered non-dairy milk available and so it tasted just a tad bit watery. A couple of tablespoon fulls of powdered non-diary milk would definitely help it bind better and the taste inside would not be watery. I think the tofu crumbles definitely capture the texture and gooey goody flavor of kalakand. Yum! Happy Diwali everyone!!! 

November 12, 2012

Gobi Bhurji w Peas

Gobi (Cauliflower) contains a variety of antioxidants and anti-cancer compounds. It is loaded with 5 of 8 B vitamins as well as Vitamin K. Its loaded with fiber and minerals and electrolytes. If you're interested in learning more about the mighty Cauliflower, see this post for veggie facts. Since reading Chef AJ's Unprocessed I've consumed many a bowl of Cauliflower Rice. Today however, I felt like I needed something Indian. Something to remind me of home. It is Diwali in India. The festival of lights. Its a day of celebration and prayer and good wishes and all things fun. Alas! Cauliflower typically doesn't play a big part in these celebrations but it does remind me of home. I transformed a traditional recipe to the HH way (no oil) and it turned out really well. A Bhurji or Keema is any dish with minced vegetables/meat. This dish contains shredded cauliflower - which is called Gobi in Hindi ... hence the term Gobi Bhurji.   

Gobi Bhurji with Roti
Prep Time: 20 min

Ingredients: 
  1. 1 small Red Onion, shredded in a food processor
  2. 1 head of cauliflower, shredded in a food processor
  3. 1/2 cup Frozen Peas
  4. 1 tbsp Ginger-Garlic Paste
  5. 2 tsp Cumin Seeds
  6. 2 tsp Coriander Powder
  7. 1 tsp Turmeric Powder
  8. 2 tsp Garam Masala (optional, I didn't use any)
  9. 1 tsp Chili Powder
  10. Salt & Pepper, to taste
Directions:
Line a skillet on medium heat with water and add minced onions and ginger-garlic paste. As the onions become transparent and ginger-garlic paste becomes fragrant, add frozen peas and mix well. Then add all remaining spices and mix well. Then add shredded cauliflower and toss really well so that the turmeric coats the cauliflower shreds. Cover, keep on medium to medium low heat, and cook until cauliflower is well cooked (~7-10 min). Then, uncover, mix well and cook on medium heat until all the water evaporates.  Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper, and fresh coriander leaves.  Serve hot with fresh (or frozen if you're lazy like me!) rotis.



My Assessment: Typically, this dish is cooked with quite a fair bit of oil. Since cauliflower absorbs a lot of oil (kind of like potatoes in that respect), at this stage pan roasting it allows it to release the oil. My no-added-fat version was just as tasty in my opinion and did not require any oil. Allowing the water to evaporate from this dish allows it to pan roast, even without oil, and it was just as flavorful and so much less fattening. LOVED IT!!!

Alternate Serving Suggestions:
  1. If you don't have rotis available, try eating this dish with hamburger buns or just regular bread, in the form of a sandwich. That's how I plan to eat it for lunch. 
  2. If you like a spicy kick, sprinkle a little bit of Sriracha sauce on top, either in your sandwich or even if you're eating it with roti. Yum!  

November 11, 2012

Mushroom & Kale Tacos

If asked, any member of my family, ranging from 3 to 43 years, will say without pause that their ideal meal consists of Tacos. Since going plant-based I've tried to incorporate as many of my veggies into burritos and tacos and tonight's meal was no exception (although I cannot get any of the other 4 people to eat these tacos). I had some leftover Wilted Kale & Onion Salad from earlier in the week. And I saw some fresh mushrooms as I was taking the leftovers out of the fridge. Into a skillet went the sliced mushrooms, with 1 cup of Wilted Kale and Onion Salad and Voila!! 

Mushroom & Kale Tacos
Prep time: 15 min

Ingredients: 
  1. 1 bunch of Kale, stems removed and leaves coarsely torn
  2. 1 medium Red Onion, julienned
  3. 6-8 White button mushrooms, sliced thinly
  4. 2 cloves of Garlic, minced
  5. 3-4 tbsp Medium Salsa, to taste
  6. Salt & Pepper, to taste
  7. 4 Corn Tortillas, for taco shells.

Directions: 
Rinse torn kale in cold water, drain and set aside. Slice mushrooms and set aside. Line a large skillet with water. Add garlic and turn heat to medium. As soon as the garlic begins to simmer, add the julienned onions and mushrooms and kale. Cover, reduce heat to medium low. Within a couple of minutes, the kale will turn bright green and begin to wilt. Keep covered for 2 additional minutes. Remove lid and turn heat to high for a couple of minutes to allow the water to evaporate. The kale will however, continue to sweat so the tacos will be a little wet and drippy. I didn't mind that part of it. if you want your tacos really dry, make sure you dry the kale completely. In my opinion though kale doesn't taste as good when it is dry because it is a very fibrous leaf. Prepare taco shells by wrapping in foil and heating in a 350F oven for 5 minutes. Prepare tacos, Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper, and more salsa, as necessary. Serve warm. 

My Assessment: This isn't a dish that looks pretty ;) or appetizing to non-kale lovers :) but it was amazingly delish!!! I enjoyed these tacos with freshly made HH Butternut Squash Soup. I didn't add any additional toppings because this was flavorful enough for me. Optional toppings include freshly diced fresh tomatoes, olives, even fresh sweet corn.

HH Butter Bean Cookies w Chocolate

So I've posted about these HH Butter Bean cookies before. They're an amazing way to make kids eat healthy cookies, with lots of protein, and without added fat. So much better than Oreos or Chips Ahoy! The original recipe can be found here. The reason I'm re-posting this recipe is because of the latest modification. 

HH Butter Bean Cookies w Chocolate
So I shared the recipe for these cookies with a friend at work. And she shared it with another colleague at work. In the end it so happened that the last person to use this recipe decided that they wanted these cookies to be chocolate chip cookies ... so she substituted a half a cup of cocoa instead of flour. 

I've always made a double batch of this recipe. The original calls only for a half a cup of Butter Beans and a 15oz can has just a little more than 1 cup. It was just easier to double the recipe and use all the beans because these cookies don't last long in my house. So in a double batch, instead of using 2 cups of flour, Jessica decided to use 1.5 cups of flour and 0.5 cup of Pure Cocoa powder. The result was simply phenomenal. 

... check out the gooey center of the cookie on the right!
My Assessment: I think I like this version a lot better than the non-chocolate version!

November 9, 2012

Coriander Red Pepper Hummus

I use hummus almost on a daily basis. As I became more and more conscious about reading labels, it dawned on me that my store bought hummus derived 70% of its calories from fat. In addition, ingredients included Citric Acid, Natural Flavors and Potassium Sorbate to maintain freshness. Suddenly, this didn't seem like the best idea at all. Since then I've experimented with a couple of different recipes and this is the one that hits the spot. 


Prep Time: 5 min

Ingredients:
  1. 1 x 15oz can of Chick peas, drained and rinsed well
  2. 1 tbsp Tahini (optional)
  3. 1 tbsp Minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
  4. 2 Flame-Roasted Red Peppers* 
  5. 1/2 cup water, as needed. 
  6. 1/4 cup Fresh Cilantro leaves, stemmed removed. 
  7. Lemon/Lime juice, to taste
  8. Salt, to taste
Directions: 
Add chickpeas, tahini (if using), garlic and peppers to a food processor and pulse until smooth, adding water as needed. Add Coriander leaves and lemon/lime juice and pulse again, add salt and do a quick taste test. Adding more lime juice and salt as needed. Serve with fresh celery, cucumber, carrot and pepper sticks and broccoli and cauliflower florets. Enjoy!!

   
* I use a brand called Bella Famiglia Flame Roasted Red Peppers, which has no added oil. Make sure you're getting a product where the peppers are not preserved in Olive oil. This brand has whole red peppers,   water, sea Salt, sugar, wine vinegar and grape must.  If you want to roast your own red peppers, here's how.  

November 8, 2012

Veggie Fact of the Day


The Great Northern Bean is one variety of Navy Beans which are also sometimes called pea beans or haricots. Most often used in baked beans, pies and soups, these have been shown to lower total cholesterol levels. Navy beans contain saponins which have been shown to exhibit antibacterial and antifungal activity and have also been implicated in inhibition of cancer cell growth. 

These beans also contain ferulic acid and para-coumaric acid - both of which have been shown to be is a strong antioxidants. FA has been shown to have anti-cancer, anti-apoptotic (prevents cell death) properties. Both are often used in topical preparations that contain Vitamin E and C.Interestingly, white beans, in Costa Rica are used only and exclusively in pork dishes. Navy beans are the most abundant source phosphatidylserine (PS) known. PS is a phospholipid that is found in cell membranes. PS has been used extensively in sports nutrition as it has been demonstrated to help speed recovery, prevent muscle soreness and improve endurance. Most recently, PS supplementation has been indicated to have some benefit in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. 

Two fun facts about these robust beans - they were a huge part of the U.S. Navy diet during the second half of the 19th century - hence the name. And the Navy Bean is the official vegetable of Massachusetts, the Baked Bean State.

FFVK Brussels Sprouts & Shiitake Mushroom Soup

Fat Free Vegan Kitchen posted a recipe on her Facebook page earlier today. One look at the accompanying picture and I was taken. I've had some frozen Brussels Sprouts (New Veggie #9) in the freezer for a while and I was looking for an interesting way to use those. And I love mushrooms ... I've often said "I've never met a mushroom I didn't love" and this recipe also allowed me a chance to try one more item on my 'pending' list of veggies/plant products to try ... Great Northern Beans - my New Veggie #53

FFVK Brussels Sprouts & Mushroom Soup
Prep Time: 30 min 

Ingredients: (FFVK Recipe) The list below includes my modifications based on what I had on hand. 
  1. 1 medium onion, diced
  2. 1 bag of frozen small Brussels sprouts, thawed and cut in half
  3. 0.5 oz Shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted, liquid saved.
  4. 0.5 oz Porcini mushrooms, reconstituted, liquid saved.
  5. 6-8 fresh Cremini mushrooms, sliced
  6. 2 tsp Minced Garlic
  7. 6-8 fresh leaves of Sage, minced
  8. 1/2 cup Quick cooking Brown Rice
  9. 1 can (15 oz) Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed.
  10. 2 cups of Vegetable broth
  11. 4 cups of Water
  12. Salt and Pepper, to taste
  13. 2-4 tsp lemon juice.
Directions:
Some of the modifications I made resulted in reducing the cooking time. I had a frozen bag of Brussels sprouts, and I thawed them in the microwave which helped cook them some. I also used quick cooking brown rice which helped my case. I didn't have any rubbed sage so I used fresh Sage leaves instead. I cooked onions and garlic in water until translucent and then added Brussels sprouts. Cooked everything together for a couple of minutes and then added the rest of the ingredients except the lemon juice which I added after the soup was done and removed from the stove. Getting the soup together took me about 10 minutes, including dicing the onion and mushrooms and reconstituting the dried mushrooms. Then I just let the whole thing simmer for about 20 minutes until we were ready to eat. Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper. 

My Assessment: This was a hearty heartwarming soup. I loved it. My newly herbie husband also liked it and even agreed to take the leftovers for lunch tomorrow (always a good sign). Thank you, FFVK, for another great recipe. 

November 7, 2012

Wilted Kale & Onion Salad

Because I am hypothyroid I avoid eating Goitrogenic foods. As the name implies, these are foods capable of causing Goiter. In layman's terms, these foods affect thyroid gland function by inhibiting synthesis of thyroid hormones, resulting in enlargement of the gland (aka goiter). Some examples include Brussels sprouts, Kohlrabi, Turnips, Rutabaga, Radishes, Cabbage, Kale, and Cauliflower. Cooking at least partially inactivates goitrogenic compounds in these foods so this salad, which uses New Veggie #23 - Kale, is the perfect way of getting the benefits of kale, without the adverse effects of goitrogens.

Wilted Kale & Onion Salad
Prep Time: 5-7 min

Ingredients:
  1. 1 bunch of Kale, stems removed, and leaves coarsely torn
  2. 1 medium Red Onion, julienned
  3. 1 clove of Garlic, minced
  4. 2-3 tbsp Medium Salsa, to taste
  5. Salt and Pepper, to taste.
Directions:
Rinse torn kale in cold water, drain and set aside. Line a large skillet with water. Add garlic and turn heat to medium. As soon as the garlic begins to simmer, add the julienned onions and kale. Cover, reduce heat to medium low. Within a couple of minutes, the kale will turn bright green and begin to wilt. Keep covered for 2 additional minutes. Remove lid and transfer kale to a salad bowl.  Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper, add salt if necessary and add a big dollop of medium salsa on top. Serve warm. 

Wilted Kale & Onion Salad
My Assessment: I really really like this salad and it is my go-to salad when I have a bunch of kale in the fridge and I'm not feeling like cooking anything even vaguely substantial. I also prefer this salad in cooler months because I've always hated eating a cold salad during that time of year. My body craves something warm and this works every time. I sometimes add other salad veggies to this salad including corn and sweet peppers, but it tastes great with just onions as well. The best part about kale is that it retains its crunchiness even after its been wilted for a few minutes. Enjoy!! 

November 6, 2012

10-min Mushroom Subzi

Given that it is Election Night 2012, I wanted to make something quick and easy so that I could settle in front of CNN and watch President Obama win his second term. Yes, I support him. That's my prerogative :) !! A Subzi, in Indian, Pakistani, and Nepali cuisine, is any spiced preparation of vegetables, typically dry, that is eaten with Rotis.  

Mushroom Subzi
Prep Time: 10 min

Ingredients:
  1. 1 cup white and/or cremini mushrooms, mixed, cut into quarters. 
  2. 6 oz (1/2 pack) Extra Firm Mori-Nu Silken Tofu (cut into 1/2" squares).
  3. 1-2 tsp Garlic powder
  4. 2 tbsp Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
  5. 1 tsp Dried Cilantro
  6. Salt and Pepper, to taste
Directions:
Line a skillet with water and add mushrooms and spices. Allow the mushrooms to release their water and for most of it to dry up (~5-7 min). Then add the silken tofu pieces and mix everything together. Its okay if the tofu squares break apart as they will only add to the creaminess of the subzi. Allow all the water to dry up, taste test for salt and garnish with freshly cracked black pepper and fresh cilantro. Serve with fresh (or frozen) chapatis. Yum!


My Assessment: This is my favorite way of making a quick subzi. I love garlic so this dish is extremely flavorful for me. If you have your own favorite spice, use that instead to focus on that flavor. Its probably best to use a powdered spice to maintain cooking time.  The tofu acts as a sponge for all the garlicky flavor and coats the mushrooms. Occasionally, I add some chili pepper powder to this dish to give it an extra kick. Enjoy!!! :)

November 4, 2012

Cremini Miso Soup

So this afternoon, I made a batch of my Quinoa Chili that has been a hit so far with everyone who's tried it, herbivores and omnivores alike :) !!! T loves it and asked for me to make it again. We both ate big bowls for lunch and were quite full. So full that I wasn't super hungry for dinner but I wanted to eat something ... don't know if it was boredom, or real hunger but I decided to make a low calorie, light soup for dinner. For a few days, I've been craving Miso soup and have looked at various recipes online. This one is a conglomeration of multiple recipes that I have read, and what I had at home. For example, I didn't have any baby bok choy, but did have baby spinach so I used that instead. I also used this soup as a platform for my New Veggie #52 - Cremini Mushrooms. 

Cremini Miso Soup
Prep Time: 10 min

Ingredients:
  1. 2 cups Vegetable broth
  2. 1 cup baby spinach
  3. 6 Cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced. 
  4. 6 oz (1/2 pack) Extra Firm Mori-Nu Silken Tofu (cut into 1/2" squares). 
  5. 1 tsp white rice vinegar
  6. 2 tsp Miso*
  7. 1 tsp Powdered Garlic
  8. Salt and Pepper, to taste. 
Directions:
In a soup pot, bring 2 cups of vegetable broth and 2 cups of water to a rolling boil. Add garlic and baby spinach, reduce heat to medium and once the garlic is wilted, add thinly sliced mushrooms. Continue to boil for a couple more minutes and then add tofu squares. Silken tofu tends to be fragile to touch so make sure you stir gently after adding the tofu. Boil for another minute and then turn the heat off and remove pot from stove. Remove a little bit of hot broth into a small mixing bowl. Add miso to the broth and stir well to make a thin paste. Fold that into the contents of the pot. Taste test for salt and add freshly cracked black pepper, to taste.  

*Miso, is a slowly fermented soybean paste. It is a treasure trove of high quality protein and amino acids, simple sugars and fatty acids making it superbly easy to digest and easy on the stomach for someone suffering from GI issues. It is essentially the chicken soup of the vegan world. The fermentation process is enabled by an edible strain of fungus called aspergillus oryzae. It is also an excellent probiotic. In order to obtain the maximum benefits, Miso should be not be boiled. Most enzymes are destroyed by temperatures above 104°F (38°C). So unpasteurized miso should be added only after cooking is complete to help obtain its probiotic benefits. 

Veggie Fact of the Day



Cremini mushrooms are small brown mushrooms, similar to white button mushrooms that are available year round and are frequently sold in stores as Baby Bella mushrooms. They are infact the same strain as Portabella. The flavor is similar to a portabella and is much more than its white relative. The texture is meaty and the flavor quite earthy. These serve as a good introduction to mushroom for someone who has never eaten mushrooms.  Nutritionally, Cremini mushrooms are rich in protein, fiber, Vitamins B, D and K and several minerals. 

November 1, 2012

Turban Tofu Spice

I've had a turban squash sitting on my kitchen counter for about a week and I've been searching for an "inspiring" recipe that whole time. I didn't come across anything particularly interesting and most of the recipes I did come across involved making it into a soup, similar to how one would use a butternut squash. And that idea seemed completed Blah!! to me! I didn't want to make just another soup or pie. One thing I knew for sure was that I wanted a savory recipe, that didn't involve using maple syrup (I mean ... how predictable is that!! Maple syrup on squash ... duh!).

Turban Tofu Spice
Prep Time: 20 min (with pre-roasted squash)

Ingredients: 
  1. 1 small/medium turban squash (enough to yield about 3/4 to 1 cup pulp)
  2. 1 medium onion, puréed in a food processor. 
  3. 1 Pk (14 oz) Extra-Firm Tofu (pressed for 15 min)*
  4. 2 tsp Ginger-Garlic paste
  5. 2-3 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix
  6. 2 cups Vegetable Broth**
  7. Salt and Pepper, to taste
  8. Scallions, for garnishing
Directions:
In advance, roast the turban squash in a 350F oven, for about an hour until a pin inserted into the flesh glides in easily. Bear in mind that the shell is tough so it will take some effort to pierce it. I just put the whole squash in the fridge after it was done roasting. This evening, I used a sharp knife to remove the cap and then used a spoon to scoop out the flesh, making sure to separate the seeds first. When I was done today, all I had left was an empty bowl :)



In a skillet on medium heat saute onions and ginger-garlic paste until fragrant, adding splashes of vegetable broth as needed to prevent the onions from sticking/burning. Then add the squash and mix well with a rubber spatula, pressing any lumps to make a smooth paste. Add pumpkin spice and more broth, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Finally add the tofu, gently folding it into the squash. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper and scallions and serve over brown rice. 

Pressing Tofu: I didn't know this trick until recently and it really does seem to help the tofu in being able to absorb a lot of the flavors of the dish. Place several sheets of paper towels or a kitchen towel under a block of extra-firm tofu, cover with a single layer and place anything heavy you can find (a couple of cans of beans or soup work great!). Let it stand for 10-15 minutes until the towels are soaked and then slice/dice tofu as you normally would.   

Vegetable Broth: I make my own vegetable broth every weekend and freeze it for use during the week (see link here). I simply save my vegetable and fruit scraps in a gallon ziploc bag during the week. Hence, my recipes often use copious amounts of broth. While vegetable broth is definitely more flavorful than water, if you don't have any broth handy, water should work just as well in any of my recipes that ask for broth. 

My Assessment: This works .. I was concerned about using Pumpkin Pie spice in a savory dish as it is traditionally used for pies and breads and all kinds of fall desserts. While I absolutely LOVE pumpkin spice desserts, most of them do have a lot of sugar and calories and I've been trying to avoid those. Of course, as I said at the beginning, I was looking for a savory dish. A close examination of the box revealed that pumpkin pie spice has ingredients very similar to Garam Masala (yup!). Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger and Cloves ... !! No wonder it works!! Although, because the proportions of spices are quite different, and there is no cumin to overpower all the other spices ... this dish did not taste like curry at all. It was great!!! 

... And the lesson learnt today ... in a pinch, use PPS instead of GM with a little bit of Cumin and Coriander added separately. This was a great food night!!!